Roaring Fork School District looks to future with El Jebel school site
February 5, 2019
The Roaring Fork School District is undertaking preliminary work needed for a new elementary or middle school in El Jebel.
The school district is under contract to buy 8.6 acres of land from Crawford Properties LLC and combine it with 7 acres the district already owns next door at Blue Lake subdivision.
The district will go before the Eagle County commissioners today for a land-use approval called a subdivision exemption, which will allow it to proceed with creating the parcel for a school. The meeting will occur at 2 p.m. in the Eagle County building next to Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel. (Update: the county commissioners cannot make it to El Jebel due to the rockslide in Glenwood Canyon closing I-70. The meeting will be rescheduled.)
Although the school district is assembling the property, there is no timeline on building a new school, said Assistant Superintendent/CFO Shannon Pelland.
“My sense is that we are probably 10 years out, but that will depend entirely on the amount of development that occurs in the area as well as the number of families the development brings.”
— Shannon Pelland, assistant superintendent
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"My sense is that we are probably 10 years out, but that will depend entirely on the amount of development that occurs in the area as well as the number of families the development brings," Pelland said in an email. "Highest housing costs in the Basalt area will likely yield fewer students per residential unit."
There are numerous housing projects under construction, approved but unbuilt or under review in the midvalley. They range from high-priced condos at Willits Town Center to Ace Lane's plan for a mix of 340 free-market and affordable-housing units at the Tree Farm project. The developers of The Fields project across Highway 82 from Blue Lake are seeking approval for about 100 residential units.
The school district will monitor development and birthrates in the Basalt attendance area so the schools will be available when needed, Pelland said.
Basalt Elementary School has 573 students this year while Basalt Middle School's enrollment is 490. Both numbers are down from 2015-16 when BES had 625 students and BMS had 504.
The capacity of the elementary school is estimated at 609, so it's 94 percent full this year, according to the school district. The middle school's capacity is 518 students, so it is at 93 percent capacity this year.
The current middle and elementary schools share a campus in downtown Basalt. The 7 acres reserved for a school in Blue Lake was required when Eagle County approved the subdivision in the 1980s. The site is currently being used as a park.
The school district's application said bonding approved by voters in a November 2015 election included $1.5 million for acquiring additional land for an El Jebel school.
"Funding for construction of the school will be included in a future bond issue when Basalt Elementary and Basalt Middle School exceed their enrollment capacity," the application said.
A community process will be held at a future date to determine what school would be built at the El Jebel site, Pelland said.
The El Jebel school site is accessed by JW Drive and the campus is adjacent to an established neighborhood on portions of its northern and southern borders and to the west. William Frothingham, a Blue Lake resident for 29 years, submitted comments for the county commissioners to consider. He noted that the neighborhood has changed substantially since the plan was made 35 years ago to reserve space for a school.
"Blue Lake is a quiet, fully developed and mature neighborhood," Frothingham wrote in his email to the county. "We have minimal traffic and distractions. It is my belief that a school in our midst would affect the quality of life that we have worked hard to develop here."
He urged that a different site be found for the school so that it wouldn't affect so many homes and lives.
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